Why does getting super-rich mean a taste bypass?

Dear readers, feast your eyes on this, which is a new development in Nine Elms in London called Versace Tower. Now the first thing you need to know is that Nine Elms is south of the river, and anywhere sarf of the river is infra dig for the cognoscenti, it’s just not the place to be seen.

inside London’s Versace Tower. You need to view this full size to take in the true horror… I confess at first I thought the things on the side were urinals, but did wonder why you’d put a dining table in the bog.

The only way you can make it worse is to go south-east, which is where an Ermine grew up, basically in the arse end of the city. There’s a historical reason for that, which is that the prevailing winds in Britain come from the south-west, so when people used to throw their crap into the river the prevailing winds carried the stink east and north. London had a problem because the Romans built Londinium north of the river, so all the useful stuff ended up on the north side of the river and transport links south were historically poor. A quick glance a a Tube map of the bits that matter shows you this at a glance. [ref]It took me longer to get 15 miles from my parents’ place to Cannon Street by train in the 1980s than it took me to get the 70 miles from Ipswich station to Liverpool Street station in the heart London’s financial district, which says something about how southeast London was disfavoured in terms of transport.[/ref]

Not much south of the river, and the east side beyond Bank is relatively new build too. And yes I know this is symbolic rather than cartographic, but the symbolism carries the story of what matters too

WTF is wrong with the รผber rich? Ever since I read that Saddam Hussein had gilded taps in his toilet it struck me that a problem with today’s rich is that all too often they have absolutely no taste.

the only thing not to expect, as Peter York noted in his 2005 book Dictatorsโ€™ Homes, is good taste.

Dictator’s Homes

That’s kinda understandable in a dictator, to the extent that there’s even a book on it, Dictator’s Homes.


Saddams gilded bog


Random item of Gaddafi’s palace

The landed gentry of Britain developed taste and a sense of proportion, which is why once the great unwashed managed to deprive them of some of their unearned wealth a lot of it was deemed a national treasure, and the National Trust has been able to charge us and foreign tourists to be able to gawp at some of this.

concentrating inherited wealth led us to stately homes and a tiny part of the population owning nearly everything. But at least they didn’t gold plate everything.

I start to see some of the reason why the aristocracy of old looked down their noses at the nouveaux riche, the problem with the hyper rich is that they are such tasteless bastards. A taste bypass is perfectly acceptable in a rapper but the rest of us have to live in the same world as the hyper-rich, and it’s time something stopped them despoiling large parts of London with their ghastly mega-basements and uninhabited gilded towers. The problem seems to apply across the board – paint this boat battleship grey and it still lacks the aesthetic appeal of a Navy destroyer, where at least form follows function

and yet apparently it is a design of Philippe Starck, he of the elegant lemon squeezer. He must’ve been having them on when he did this project.

Now if taste were the only problem it wouldn’t be too bad, but all too often it goes along with bad character, as exemplified by the despots. When it comes to gold and interior design, less is definitely more. There’s another well-known example of this genre

Chez Trump

which begins as soon as you get into the elevator

America take note. Gilding the living crap out of everything is a look that says something about the perpetrator, and that something isn’t very good, all the way from King Midas through Nicolae Ceaucescu, Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein ๐Ÿ˜‰ Be afraid, very afraid.


36 thoughts on “Why does getting super-rich mean a taste bypass?”

  1. Here’s my theory.
    Old money have lived through a war or two, and had to learn how to hide their money (A) so they are not called on to contribute more than they may wish to contribute towards king and country’s valiant effort, or (B) in case the wrong side wins, or (C) wars bring social change and then people question why a minority owns almost everything there is to own, so why would anyone voluntarily bring undue attention to the matter. Also, they would’ve also had a generation or two who’s nearly lost it all and learned that it’s much easier to appear rich when people just assume you are without having to display possessions.
    This has been passed down in a packaging of class or taste or whatever, but I think it’s mainly ancient fear that someone or something may take it all away.
    Now, the new rich haven’t had the same experience of pedigreed generations striving to preserve family wealth through changing times – they’ve made it and they think the good times will never end and the rules that worked in their favour will never change.
    There are a few notable exceptions, of course. Like the the House of Saud – I don’t know what’s wrong with them. Exceptio probat regulam?


    1. Fascinating. Survival bias, those that were over ostentatious didn’t survive… The Bling of the Sauds is a relatively (<50 year) thing.


  2. I think it is because the pursuit of money beyond a certain point is an indication of an unhealthy mind. Sane people want money for practical reasons. Security, freedom, comfort, happiness etc. It doesn’t require a fortune you could not spend in several lifetimes to achieve these goals. The very rich on the other hand have a drive to keep accumulating money far beyond any practical purpose. The only reason I can see for doing that is because they are haunted by deep seated fears and inescapable feelings of insecurity. It is the irrational insatiability these feelings cause in them that makes these people so dangerous to the rest of us. They will keep trying to accumulate money regardless of the destruction they cause to other people, the social contract, the environment or any of the other things a decent civilisation requires. A healthy society is one that in effect puts these people in harness and controls them for the good of society rather than the other way round. I would say the West achieved this more or less in the period from the end of WWII to the start of the rise of “neoliberal” politics and economics under Thatcher/Reagan. Since then we have swapped around to subordinate society to the cravings of these sociopaths.


  3. It just all screams “look at me” in a fairly pathetic way.

    Rather reminds me of Harry Enfield characters Stan and Pam Herbert whose catch phrase was “We are considerably richer than you.”


    1. Hehe – it’s not their money I’m railing against, it’s their ghastly sense of taste ๐Ÿ˜‰

      In defence of Steve Jobs, I think his Starck designed yacht is considerably less louche than the one I pictured, though I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s a thing of beauty


      1. I stand corrected…
        Main point was that far too often owners / builders of megayachts, megaproperties and so on never have time to actually enjoy them. What a waste ( of your lifetime, that is.)

        BTW those fancying a superyacht : charter them! Yours for a mere 1.000.000 Euro / week. What better use for a pension lump sum ?


  4. @all I can sort of understand the psychological trauma and insecurity of the transience of human life. And indeed where the aristocracy might win out, having had generations to work it out.

    But nevertheless, it’s the sheer loucheness that slays me. I was an engineer, so no great sense of aesthetics, but that Versace joint offend what vestigial sense I have, deeply ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I’ve been to Versailles and while the Hall of Mirrors is a bit OTT there’s still some class. I think the Ermine school of interior design will be where you’ve gilded more than 50% of the visual field or you’ve mixed more than two pseudo classical styles, you’ve jumped the shark into dictator chic.

    Heck, if I were a billionaire and I knew I had no taste, I’d hire it. But it seems too often that billions can’t buy class at any price!


  5. “Heck, if I were a billionaire and I knew I had no taste, Iโ€™d hire it. But it seems too often that billions canโ€™t buy class at any price!”

    I’m sure most of the examples are created by ‘hired taste’ – other greedy muppets who see gravy train and impose their own taste and get paid for it.


  6. Maybe Percy Shelley was illustrating precisely this irrepressibly human tendency towards hubris in his iconic “Ozymandias”; a way for those with a chip on their shoulders vis-a-vis social status …..to announce their arrival :-

    I met a traveller from an antique land
    Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert… near them, on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
    And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:

    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.


  7. On the north/south London underground divide, demographics have certainly played an important role, but my understanding (wrong as it may be) was that geology was also a major factor.

    London sits on lots of lovely London Clay. This is relatively easy to tunnel through and helps keep water out of the tunnels. So London is geographically blessed as far as tunnelling goes, but in north London the clay is closer to the surface than in south London, which makes it easier (cheaper) to tunnel in the north, hence that’s where most of the tunnels are.

    Here are a couple of related resources from the Royal Geographical Society (apologies for the crazy long URLs):



    The second one is a direct link to a power point.


    1. Ah – the joys of being a retiree –

      Computer sez “Powerpoint failed to start in Safe Mode”

      Ermine thinks “Eh – let’s start it up manually then”

      Clickety clack – ah. The problem is more fundamental. I don’t have Powerpoint anymore ๐Ÿ˜‰ Never needed it since leaving work.

      Still, I educated myself with the other link. And it’s reflected in that my old commute was using British rail, which crossed to Cannon Street via the railway bridge over the river rather than a tunnel under it.

      So perhaps SE London was the wrong side of the tracks also because transport was poor.


  8. While I agree that a gold plated bog is probably the nadir of bad taste I think that gold plated supercars deserve an honourable mention – https://www.musclecarszone.com/first-gold-plated-lamborghini-aventador-lp700-4-in-the-world/maxresdefault-3-3/.

    I mean, why? Presumably you have to strip off the original paint before gold plating it and I’m sure that some of those panels are carbon fibre anyway.

    And you definitely wouldn’t take it sarf of the river after dark ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. Ah, but the privilege of a retiree is that I don’t have to read powerpoints. ever. Again ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Sure, I could work out a way. BTDT and all that. I got the picture, and ’tis good to understand why sarf east London got shat on as far as transport infrastructure was concerned. But I am happy to say, it isn’t my problem. If it needs saying in PowerPoint. it’s a signal I don’t need to hear. That feels good, in a troubled sort of way ๐Ÿ˜‰


  9. When we visited London in the 1990s we stayed at a nice hotel called Park Court on Bayswater not far from Lancaster Gate tube station. It was in a lovely Regency building that was later gutted right to the outer walls and rebuilt as a bunch of apartments for the uber rich. At least it still looks great on the outside.


  10. A garage owner of our acquaintance once showed us a Range Rover “Autobiography”. One wonderfully decadent feature was that you could have it in any colour you liked; as he said to my wife, give them a lipstick and they’ll match it for you.

    Like all other Range Rovers it was too small: the legroom was lousy. Recently I’ve ridden in big BMWs and Mercs: both have been badly short of head room. It made me wonder whether luxury cars are built for “Little Hitlers”.


  11. 15 miles south-east of Liverpool Street station? Isn’t that better known as Kent? ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Joking aside, I grew up on the opposite side, north east London, which is blessed by the Central Line. Though even there the tube zones always looked distinctly rigged against us.


    1. it was 15 miles SE of White City, so a little bit less bad ๐Ÿ˜‰ Eltham, the place known for the killing of Stephen Lawrence and now pretty much a place where hope goes to die, although it was reasonably OK when I lived there.

      Perhaps it’s me, but every place I’ve lived in seems to have gone downhill since.


      1. I maybe the eternal optimist but Leyton has actually improved in recent years. The Olympics money helped, as did the influx of youngsters priced out of Hackney on the other side of the River Lea.


      2. Good to hear there’s hope ๐Ÿ˜‰ I vaguely wondered if it’s more me getting more sensitised to the rum elements of a neighbourhood. As an owner-occupier I always want to move before more than 10% of the surrounding houses become rentals, and while students massively improve the ambience of the city centre I don’t want to live in any studenty neighbourhoods because of the noise and the trash from people moving out every year.


  12. I remember seeing white city for the first time around the millennium & thinking wow …… Is this the great BBC I’d respected so much all my life until that point? It just really looked like any other decrepit dive in neglected parts of london. Soviet-style, absolutely basic, minimalist, concrete soulless, functional architecture. I was just starting my career, but realised then the power of bullsh*t – you could ‘big-up’ anything to sound chic – so another fool will always believe it. Lots of other confirmations followed soon after, brixton, the great clubbing ‘centre of the world’ – just another crap rip-off …..what culture? camden – edgy ppfffft …….again, sad crap rip-off for naive tourists. All very cool britannia/new labour – I’m surprised there isn’t some similar dead cat bounce going on now to counteract any brexit uncertainty.


    1. There was a reason for the circular construction though, because in the analogue era we had to time everything synchronous to the vision mixer and delay was dear, so it was good to start off with similar path lengths from the studios.

      Mind you, I don’t think of cool in Brixton. When I travelled through Brixton I would lock all the car doors – it was rough as guts in the early 1980s. Camden was good then. At least Brixton seems an exception to the rule – somewhere in London that’s come up in the world over time!


      1. When I landed in London, it was in pre-gentrification Sheppard’s Bush, which looked a bit seedy & scary at the time, but after a few months I loved it. The people, shops & hangouts were so colourful & eclectic, with the market a real treasure hunt ……it just goes to show how misleading initial appearances can be. I still have fond memories now even though I was flat broke & lived above a fried chicken joint that served noisy drunks until 2am; the extractor shaft above their kitchen had a slit in it that constantly emitted rancid chicken fat fumes, so I didn’t eat chicken the whole time I lived there.

        There was a pub opposite so rough that when QPR played on the weekends, the fighting spilled out into the street on Uxbridge road, holding up traffic. I’d sit on the window ledge like the neighbours with a can of beer spurning the TV to watch the cops arrive & wade in – it was like a B-movie.

        I bet all of us from back then couldn’t afford to live there now though……..


  13. The problem is bigger than that: nobody has any taste anymore. (Well, very few). Simply look at old vs new Penn Station: what kind of people tear down that and replace it with this? Itโ€™s a sickness of the modern mind. The rules are gone with the old order. Who wants to subjugate themselves to the classical orders anymore, to symmetry (or artful asymmetry) or proportion, or God forbid the Golden Ratio or the Vitruvian Virtues? How quaint, how oppressive! No, we want to be free to build the same glass box everywhere or maybe a nice Walmart floating on a vast sea of asphalt. Sure the rich have more money to be more outlandishly obnoxious, but we all contribute to the ugliness of the modern world in our own ways and as our budget permits.


  14. I’m Mrs W from whatlifecouldbe.eu. I’m originally from Scotland but now I live in Romania.

    A group of us have started a website to gather together all sorts of FIRE stuff that’s relevant for Europeans and build up the European FI community. It’s called FIREhub.eu. You can read more about it here: http://firehub.eu/start-here/ We have a blogroll of European FIRE blogs, a feed where we post the latest articles from the blogs, a wiki to collect FIRE information, an events section to list FIRE meetups happening all around Europe, and a section with contact information.

    Is this something you want to be part of? We added your blog in the hope that you will, but if you decide not to take part we will of course take your blog off the list. If you do want to be a part of this, could you check the listing for your blog and let us know whether the picture, text and other information is ok? If you want to make any changes just let us know and we’ll update your listing.

    I’ve also taken the liberty of adding this post to our articles feed so you can see how FIREhub works. Please have a look and let me know what you think.

    Yours hopefully,
    Mrs W


    1. That’s an interesting insight into a different world, and quite a wakeup call as to how privileged UK FI savers are with respect to tax-sheltered accounts, though I guess we have the issues of the next few years. These facts may not be unconnected…

      Good luck with your enterprise!


    1. I am fine with that as long as any article from here is credited with a link back to the original somehow, and is not passed off as someone else’s work. I didn’t get the impression you were passing articles off and don’t mean to imply that. Your perspective is interesting, best of luck.


      1. Great, thanks! The articles we publish to our feed clearly state which blog the article is from and consist of a direct link to the article on the blog it comes from, and a 1-2 sentence introduction written by us explaining what the article is about. We’re definitely not out to pass off other people’s articles as our own – the point of our site is to showcase what FIRE blogs are out there and help people find information as easily as possible. Thanks again for your support.


  15. The super rich are not trying to show good taste, they are trying to show off their wealth. It also shows that taste is one thing that money doesnt buy.


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